Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Preparing For War - Getting Ready For WFB 8th Edition: Part I

Whilst my time with the (beautiful) new rulebook has been brief so far it’s very clear that Games Worksop have been very bold and ambitious with this edition of the Warhammer rules. There are some quite fundamental changes to the way the game plays and from what I can see they deserve a lot of credit for making these changes without invalidating the entire range of army book as had to be done with Ravening Hordes in the past. From what I understand a lot of issues that may arise too should be getting cleared up with the FAQ/Errata update that’s just around the corner.

Now, as the rumour mill ground out the odd snippet I have to admit that I was exceedingly sceptical. However, upon seeing a lot of the elements that concerned me in the wider context I’m impressed and genuinely excited! Warhammer really seems to play to its background now and the games take on the feel of the epic battles out of books and films.

Image Property of Games Workshop

One of the simplest but possibly the biggest change is in my opinion the ability to pre-measure distances. The purist in me was admittedly a little alarmed when I first read that. Suddenly the playing field has changed. I think this was a necessary change with the introduction of random charge distances. You can be a lot more precise when concocting your nefarious plans but like all good plans they might go straight out of the window when it comes to the nitty gritty.
I like the idea that charges might peter out before the warriors make contact with the enemy, leaving units sitting ducks for the counter-charge. I like to imagine this represents the natural ebb and flow of a battle, exhaustion setting in and enthusiasm being drained from a charge as those at the front realise they’re running at a wall of spears. So I’ve decided that all troops are going to need rousing speeches before the call to charge. Yes, this edition I just might be THAT player!

Once you get into combat, you come across a whole host of changes that really change the shape of Warhammer Fantasy battles. Firstly there’s the rules regarding stepping up and supporting attacks. In essence these allow troops in the second rank (and sometimes even further back) to make an attack. This will make combats more brutal and realistic. Alongside casualties being taken from the rear and not affecting the number of attacks you’ll get in retaliation (unless the rear IS one of your fighting ranks) we get combats that have a more life-like flow to them. Yes, you might chop down 10 of the 50 strong Goblin unit but this time they’re not all going to stand around checking their watches and waiting for a turn in which they can attack back. They’re instead going to scramble over the corpses of the fallen to try and stab you with something pointy, they’re going to jostle each other to get the chance to add to the kill-count. Combats seem more brutal, more visceral, more desperate and frenzied – exactly how war should be fought in the Warhammer world.

Image Property of Games Workshop

Before you get into combat though there are the magic and shooting phases. Magic has gotten a huge overhaul along with the combat system. Gone are the days when you need to take a Level 4 Wizard and two Level 2s just to remain competitive in this phase of the game. Dice are generated by rolling 2D6. The casting player takes the sum of the roll as his power dice and the defending player takes the highest individual dice as his dispel dice. These dice can then be used by any of your casters. To cast a spell you roll you chosen number of power dice and add your magic level. Miscasts are gone on double 1s but a double 6 casts with irresistible force. However, with irresistible force there is a magical backlash and you have to roll on the loss of control table. You dispel in much the same way you cast, rolling dice and adding the magic level of the dispelling wizard. Magic now falls more in line with the background. The winds of magic are fickle and ever changing. There is great danger in wielding them but also the chance of devastating power.

Changes to shooting have included one I hoped they’ make but which has come in for some criticism on forums; true line of sight. I was never a fan of the two heights fits all rules in previous editions; they were clunky, confusing and unrealistic. Whilst I used warhounds to screen my Chaos Knights from shooting it never felt right that the little doggy blocked my opponent from seeing the hulking, chaos armour clad brutes atop massive barded daemon-steeds that followed behind them. Interposing models which don’t block line of sight now decrease your chance to hit slightly and this feels so much more real. Picture the scene –

The Empire musketeers loaded their weapons. Their eyes locked on either the slavering jaws of the massive hunting dogs that scrambled across the battlefield towards them; or on the dark armoured riders whose steeds’ nostrils billowed steam in the cold morning air, keeping pace behind the warhounds.
“Aim for the horses!” the order was roared.

Adelbert squinted, taking aim at the exposed flesh under the barding of one of the chaos steeds. He heard a couple of panicked shots go off early, the pressure of the approaching foe affecting the concentration of the men and some in self-preservation choosing to instead try and fell the faster approaching dogs.


A barrage of shots pelted the knights but Adelbert had hesitated a second, one of the hounds had leapt up, blocking his view and foolishly he’d attempted to adjust his shot but instead fluffed it and it flew harmlessly past both hound and steed. A few of the knights were felled in the volley but the hounds were upon them now, the knights would exact their bloody revenge if any of the Empire's men still drew breath afterwards. Adelbert drew his knife and roared in anger, trying to dispel the creeping despair as a tide of claws and fangs leapt at him hungrily…

You can’t tell me getting to play that out isn’t cool?! That’s what I really love about some of the rules changes; they’re making the game so much more cinematic!

Image Property of Games Workshop

In Part II I’ll go into some more detail regarding rules changes and how it’s likely to impact the way we pick our armies. Then in Part III I’m going to try and build a new list for The Devotees of Elazar to make them ready for 8th edition.


Big Jim said...

Great analysis I'm looking forward to part two.

Elazar The Glorified said...

Thanks, part two should be up in a few days :)